Editor’s note: This story has updated to correct the date of the Economic Development Committee meeting.
As one of the city’s oldest and largest employers, Mather has as its mission, helping people age well.
That takes a lot of work – and a lot of employees of all ages.
The senior lifestyle residence, which says on its LinkedIn page “employs a growing team of 600+ professionals, ranging from workflow gurus to housekeepers, culinary staff to concierges, CNAs to building services pros,” is now seeking to use $58,100 in federal funds to develop a workforce pipeline of Evanston students and young adults.
Speaking at the city’s Economic Development Committee meeting Jan. 25, Elizabeth Rose, Mather’s assistant vice president for talent acquisition, said the non-profit company wants residents to think of Mather for a variety of careers, not just health care, but also culinary, hospitality and fitness jobs.
At the meeting, EDC members set that hope in motion. Committee members voted unanimously favor of recommending an allocation of $58,110 in federal American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA) funds to go to Mather’s workforce Initiative.
Under the proposal, Mather is to match the city’s contribution, bringing the total investment to $116,200.
The proposal will next go to the full city council, which has final authority on approval.
Ike Ogbo, the city’s Health & Human Services director, pointed out that the program is the second of its kind, as city council last year partnered with NorthShore University HealthSystem on a $200,000 program designed to accelerate approving matching funds for a workforce program designed to create a health care pipeline.
In this case, Ogbo wrote in a memo, Mather will invest the funds to create internships for six students who will work 12 weeks, logging 37.5 hour days at $20 an hour.
“We’re not looking for individuals that are in need of a job; we want to develop careers for them,” Rose told the EDC.
With that in mind, she said Mather has partnered with the Culinary Institute of America and others to develop a tiered certification program for employees in hospitality and culinary areas.
In addition, Mather offers to pay tuition for employees who want to pursue a career as a Certified Nursing Assistant.
Last summer, she said, Mather hired a music therapy intern, who was originally from Boys Hope, Girls Hope. He finished his internship with an outdoor concert, she said.
Balancing wellness and service
In discussion, Council Member Devon Reid (8th Ward) said his only concern was that Mather comply with Fair Work Week guidelines, such as he proposed last year, requiring employers to provide workers with predictable work schedules and compensation for changes.
At the meeting, Yvonne Jung, Mather’s senior vice president for Human Resources, said the organization was very concerned about wellness, and planned to start a program next year for employees emphasizing the importance of self-care.
At the same time, “we have to be flexible,” she said. “It’s really a balance between taking care of our residents and taking care of our employees but having the flexibility within the scheduling to do that.”
In response to a question from Council Member Melissa Wynne (3rd Ward), Rose agreed to commit an equivalent amount of money for a second year.
A pipeline that continues
Nathan M. Norman, the city’s workforce development Coordinator who has worked with Mather to bring the proposal forward, said a really positive aspect of the program is “that we’re expecting those six [interns to] go through the program to inevitably be employed. And then that will put room for another six, and then we create a pipeline. In a perfect world that would be really remarkable.”
EDC member Lisa Dzeikan asked the Mather representatives how the model they’re using compared with other private employers using similar initiatives.
With the allocation from the city coming from federal ARPA dollars, “that gives me pause,” she said. “I’m curious from our perspective what other sources of funding have you explored?”
Norman responded that “we have worked together and looped in colleagues with the Cook County Workforce Partnership to locate workforce dollars in the near future.”
“But what we’d like this to do,” he said, “is this to be impetus, so that we can show those measurable outcomes to say: ‘OK, we place folks in jobs.’ We have a pipeline for Evanston residents, which I think is extremely efficacious to do with ARPA dollars or any dollars from the city.
“And I think it aligns well with the city’s mission to become the most livable [city], disseminating services in an equitable manner.
“We’re touching those residents that are either underemployed or unemployed to help them [advance] in the workforce, and that is our primary focus,” he said.
This is great! People can train for careers – and at no cost – in growing fields. Also, the Cook County Workforce Partnership would be an excellent partner, the workforce agency I work for gets much – needed support and funding from “The Partnership”, especially via the WIOA (Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act) federal program. Lower – income folks can access valuable vocational trainings and thus achieve career and life success… they’ve a 90% success rate in placing people in jobs.
More info here about “The Partnership” and the services they offer to both job – seekers and businesses:
Gregory Morrow – Evanston 4th Ward resident